Cognitive Skills of the Brain
Because the brain in the central hub for the all of the body’s functions, understanding how this organ works can be helpful in terms of understanding Traumatic Brain Injury.
There are six components inside of the brain; the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, temporal lobe, cerebellum and the brain stem. Read below to understand the functions of each part of the brain, the roles they play in the body’s overall health, and observed problems in behavior or well being if that particular part of the brain is injured.
The frontal lobe links and integrates all components of behavior at the highest level. Emotion and social adjustment and impulse control are also localized here. Injury to parts of the frontal lobe may cause an inability to move part of the body or the whole side of the body. Speech may become halting, disorganized or be stopped except for single explosive words. Personality may change. Social rules of behavior may be disregarded. The executive functions, planning, abstract reasoning, impulse control, sustained attention and insight are all located here. The frontal lobe is highly susceptible to injury.
- Problem solving
- Inhibition of behavior
- Motor planning
- Awareness of abilities/limitations
- Mental flexibility
- Speaking (expressive language)
- Emotion (i.e., depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness).
The parietal lobe is largely responsible for construction ability and language. Injury to the front parts of this lobe may cause someone to lose sensation on parts of the body. With an injury in this area, one may become disoriented. Recall of long term memories may be mixed up in time or sequencing. They may become easily lost or confuse left and right. They may have difficulty recognizing or naming what they see. Injury may also produce disorders in the ability to read, write or perform math calculations. This area also includes conscious sensation and voluntary motion.
- Sense of touch
- Differentiation: size, shape, color
- Spatial perception
- Visual perception
- Academic skills (reading)
- Sensation (i.e., touch, taste, and smell)
Injury to this area usually results in “blindness” to part or all of the visual field. Usually people experience “holes” or “blind spots” in what they see. There may be problems picking things out of space or they may misperceive pictures or objects. Recognition of colors may also be disturbed.
- Reading (perception and recognition of printed words)
- Depth perception
- Color perception
- Difficulty tracking moving objects
- Partial or total blindness
The temporal lobe perceives and recognizes verbal material. It is among the most frequently injured parts of the brain during head injury. A person may have difficulty screening out distractions. Injury to the upper temporal area can cause someone to misunderstand what is said. They may make sounds like words but which are not recognizable as words at all. They may also misunderstand body language. Emotional changes such as unexplained panic or unexpected tearfulness may be noted. Left temporal area includes production of speech, naming and verbal memory. The right temporal area includes musical abilities, foreign languages, visual memory, and comprehension of the environment.
- Understanding language (receptive language)
- Organization and sequencing
- Musical awareness
- Thinking (i.e., memory and reasoning)
- Language (i.e., communication, expression, and understanding)
Obtaining a general understanding of the brain and its functions is important to understanding the rehabilitation process. It is very important, however, to understand that the rehabilitation professional is concerned with the whole person. The identification of individual problems gives the rehabilitation team areas in which to focus treatment plans, all of these plans are designed to work toward the rehabilitation of the whole person. Each problem area affects other areas and many times resolving one problem has a major impact on other problems. For example, reestablishing postural balance and eliminating dizziness greatly enhances concentration and attention which allows for improved cognition and problem solving.
- Coordination of voluntary movement
- Balance and equilibrium
- Some memory for reflex motor acts
- Loss of ability to coordinate fine movements
- Loss of ability to walk
- Inability to reach out and grab objects
- Dizziness (vertigo)
- Slurred speech (scanning speech)
- Inability to make rapid movements
The brain stem plays a vital role in basic attention, arousal, and consciousness. All information to and from our body passes through the brain stem on the way to or from our brain. Like the frontal and temporal lobes, the brain stem is located in an area near bony protrusions making it vulnerable to damage during trauma.
- Heart Rate
- Reflexes to seeing and hearing (startling response)
- Controls sweating, blood pressure, digestion, temperature (autonomic nervous system)
- Affects level of alertness
- Ability to sleep
- Sense of balance (vestibular function)
- Decreased vital capacity in breathing, important for speech
- Swallowing food and water (dysphasia)
- Difficulty with organization/perception of the environment
- Problems with balance and movement
- Dizziness and nausea (vertigo)
- Sleeping difficulties (insomnia, sleep apnea)